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What's Ahead For 2019?

Alyssa Hansen
14 Dec, 2018
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With another election behind us, our focus now turns to the upcoming legislative session. Once again, we expect to have our work cut out for us as legislators return to Nashville. As has been the case for the past several years, Republicans continue to have extreme dominance in both chambers, so we're preparing for more uphill battles.  Given what we'll likely be facing at both the federal and state levels, it's crucial that we don't let these difficulties dampen our strength and dedication to fighting for working families. To help ensure that all of our members are informed and educated about all legislation that we'll be watching, please let us know if you have any questions about bills that are on our radar.  As a reminder, the legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, January 8th, 2019. Our weekly legislative updates will likely start in early February. Because 2018 was an election year, the legislature will go into recess for a short time after the opening week of session for reorganization. The first official "legislative day" will be Saturday, January 19th following the inauguration of Governor-elect Bill Lee. We will provide additional details about the opening weeks of session once we know more. During reorganization, we'll be reading through any and all filed bills. Because of the current makeup of the General Assembly, we know that we'll be playing a considerable amount of defense and do not plan on filing any legislation of our own this year. However, we will do our part to lobby for any bills that benefit working families in Tennessee. We've listed the leadership changes that have occurred in the General Assembly, as well as what bills or issues we expect to see again. Remember, this is not a final or definite list, just a summary of things that we expect to see. If you have questions about any of the items listed below, please don't hesitate to contact our office and speak with a member of our legislative team.

House vs. Senate

The Tennessee Senate is still made up of 28 Republicans and 5 Democrats, and the numbers have barely shifted in the House. Democrats now hold 26 seats, while Republicans hold 73. 

In terms of leadership, Representative Glen Casada is the new Speaker of the House. Representative William Lamberth is the new House Majority Leader, while Representative Cameron Sexton is the new Caucus Chairman. The Democrats are now led by Representative Karen Camper and Representative Mike Stewart. In the upper chamber, Senator Randy McNally will serve another term as the next Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Senate while Republican Senators Jack Johnson and Ken Yager will serve as the new Majority Leader and Caucus Chairman, respectively. Senate Democrats are now led by Senators Jeff Yarbro and Raumesh Akbari.  

As of right now, legislators have not been assigned to committees. This is one of the most crucial pieces of our work, because having labor-friendly legislators on committees that we deal with frequently can be the difference between a bill dying or moving forward. Once committees have been assigned, we will send out a notice. Some of the many committees that we deal with consistently include the House Consumer & Human Resources Committee, the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee and the House Local & State Government Committes. 

Potential Legislation

These are some of the issues/bills that we've seen over the course of the past several years. Fortunately, they have not passed. However, given Republicans' dominance in both chambers, we expect most (if not all) of these to come back. All of the topics listed below would have to be re-filed as new bills. Remember, this is just a partial list of things that we expect to see over the next few months. 

  1. Payroll dues deductions. Almost annually, a bill is filed that would have eliminated payroll dues deductions for one (or multiple) groups. Fortunately, the bills have failed to gain any traction, but that could easily change this year, especially in light of this summer's ruling from the Supreme Court on Janus vs. AFSCME.  
  2. Workers' Comp. For the past few years, a bill that would essentially make workers' compensation optional has popped up in committee every  so often. Each time, there has been bipartisan opposition to this legislation, but we would not be surprised to see it come back in some form. 
  3. Collective Bargaining Agreements. In 2015, former Representative Jeremy Durham and Senator Brian Kelsey filed a bill that would ban collective bargaining agreements between public employees and local governments, utility districts and other entities. Multiple groups stepped up to ensure that this bill was rarely brought up in committee. While the legislation has not been filed since then, it would not be surprising if something similar was introduced in 2019. 
  4. School Vouchers. As reported earlier this month, Governor-elect Bill Lee has expressed an interest in including school voucher legislation as part of his agenda. While bills that would create a school voucher program in Tennessee have made it as far as the House floor, none have passed. Given the new governor's support for school vouchers and the Republican supermajorities in both chambers, this legislation has a strong likelihood of being filed.